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Arthur William FARMER DCM

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Sgt 334 33y3m 25 Aug 1914 25 Apr 1918 6

Sergeant Arthur William Farmer DCM  (1881 – 1969)


Arthur W. Farmer’s name appears on one of the Wharf Street Congregational Church honour boards in the Merrington Anzac Memorial Peace Chapel. The story of his long life at home in the inner suburbs of Brisbane interrupted by five years overseas in the Great War tells of courage, loyalty and faithful service for king and country.

Family background and early life

Born at Normanby Hill on 3 May 1881, Arthur William Farmer was the youngest of nine children of John Farmer (1818-1894) and Elizabeth née McDonald (1839-1918).  When Arthur’s father died when Arthur was only 13 years old, his widowed mother was left with her youngest daughter Catherine and her two youngest sons James (a labourer) and Arthur, then living at 598 Boundary Street, Spring Hill.  Of her other children, three had died in infancy and three had married and left home.

Arthur at an early age obtained work as an engine cleaner, probably at the Roma Street railway yards nearby.  In addition to this employment, Arthur Farmer played his part in the citizen defence scheme at that time.  At the outbreak of the Boer War in South Africa in 1899, army contingents were raised by all six Australian colonies in support of Great Britain.  From Federation in 1901, this continued under the Commonwealth government.  Under this scheme, Arthur Farmer served for a period of five years in the Moreton Regiment, 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen.

At the age of 26, Arthur married Elizabeth Lillie Mathieson on 7 March 1908 at All Saints Church of England in Wickham Terrace.  Their new address was 40 Cricket Street, Petrie Terrace and Arthur became an engine driver.

Their son William Edward George Mathieson Farmer was born in 1910.  By 1913 the young family was living at Normanby Terrace and Arthur worked as a fireman.

Enlistment and service overseas

Soon after the outbreak of war in 1914 Arthur Farmer enlisted to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force.  He was appointed to the 9th Battalion, the first battalion recruited in Queensland and with the 10th, 11th and 12th Battalions it formed the 3rd Brigade.  After preliminary training at Enoggera, the battalion sailed from Brisbane on HMAT Omrah to Egypt, arriving in early December.  Private Farmer embarked from Alexandria on board Ionian to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 2 March 1915.  The 3rd Brigade was the covering force for the ANZAC landing on 25 April 1915, the first troops ashore at around 4.30 am.  The battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the ANZAC beachhead.

In May, Arthur Farmer was detached for transport duty at Mex Camp and later Maadi Camp back in Egypt where he was appointed to the rank of lance corporal.  After the evacuation and the return to Egypt of the survivors of the Gallipoli campaign, Lance Corporal Farmer rejoined his unit at Tel-el-Kabir in January 1916.  The 9th Battalion was split at this time to help form the 49th Battalion but Arthur Farmer remained with the 9th and embarked on board Maryland from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front on 26 March 1916.  From then until 1918 the battalion took part in operations against the German Army.  The battalion’s first major action in France was at Pozières in the Somme valley.  Later the battalion fought at Ypres, in Flanders, before returning to the Somme for winter. 

Promotion and awarded the DCM

In November 1916, Farmer received promotion to the rank of sergeant.  In 1917 the battalion moved back to Belgium for the advance to the Hindenburg Line.  On 1 January 1918 Sergeant Farmer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as transport sergeant”. 

Arthur’s wife Mrs Elizabeth Farmer and their little boy at Normanby Hill would have been proud to receive news of the award by letter quoting the words describing the acts of gallantry for which his decoration was awarded:

“His work at all times has been worthy of the highest praise, and all duties entrusted to him have been carried out in a most capable manner. He rendered valuable service to his unit during heavy fighting by getting forward rations under the most difficult conditions.”1

Sergeant Farmer spent a period of leave in England in January 1918 before returning to his unit in Belgium. He joined Australian Headquarters staff in London on transport duties from April to August 1918 and returned to Australia in April 1919.

Post-war life at home in Australia

Arthur Farmer rejoined his wife and family at Normanby Hill and resumed his employment as a fireman on Queensland locomotives.

In the late 1940s, Arthur and Lillie Farmer moved to Beaumaris, 25 Ballymore Street, Kelvin Grove where they continued to live after Arthur’s retirement from the railways. They both died in the year 1969, Arthur on 26 January at the age of 87 years and Elizabeth on Anzac Day aged 85.

1. Letter dated 16 September 1918, Officer in charge, Base Records, AIF to Mrs E L Farmer, Normanby Terrace, Brisbane, quoting promulgation in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 137.

• National Archives of Australia, military records World War 1
• Australian War Memorial, World War 1 Embarkation Rolls, Nominal Roll, unit histories
• Ancestry, on line
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1905 – 1963
Queensland Figaro, Brisbane, 12 March 1908, page 13
London Gazette, Supplement No 30450, 28 December 1917
• Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 57, 18 April 1918 

Compiled by Noel E Adsett, Brisbane, August 2016 ©



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